What is it to be human? This is an important question. Perhaps it is the most important question we could ever ask. The answer has profound and wide-ranging implications. In many respects, this question can’t be adequately addressed unless we examine a more fundamental question, “Where do humans come from?”
In the West, influenced by a Judeo-Christian worldview, the response to this question was largely based on the first two chapters of Genesis. Namely, human beings were created as a primordial pair, made in God’s image. And all humanity ultimately descended from a literal, historical Adam and Eve. This view of humanity prevailed in the Judeo-Christian world until the early 1870s with the publication of Charles Darwin’s detailed work on human origins, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.
Darwin proposed that humanity evolved through a process of descent with modification from an ancestor shared with apes. As he put it, “In a series of forms graduating insensibly from some apelike creature to man as he now exists, it would be impossible to fix on any definite point when the term ‘man’ ought to be used.”1
For many Christians, Charles Darwin did the unthinkable: he interpreted humanity in a fully mechanistic and materialistic fashion. According to this view, all of human nature, not just humanity’s physical makeup, emerged under the auspices of natural selection. Darwin regarded humanity’s mental powers and intellectual capacity, as well as moral sense and religious beliefs, as evolution’s invention….
Some believers today feel that overwhelming proof for human evolution exists and that it is now necessary to abandon the historic Christian view of human origins. Instead, they propose the Church adopt the view that God used evolutionary mechanisms to create (theistic evolution or evolutionary creation). However, many evangelicals and conservative believers remain reluctant to embrace this proposal. I am among the skeptics.
In February 2012, I was invited to participate in a John Templeton Foundation workshop entitled “Becoming Human in Theistic Perspective,” where I presented and defended a view on human origins from the vantage point of an old-earth creationist. As part of my role in the workshop I was asked to submit a paper outlining my position.
The link below will take you to my full-length paper:
- Mark. Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 2nd ed., Great Minds Series (1874; reprint, with an introduction by H. James Birx, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998), 188.